Keynote and Invited speakers at Nordic Physics Days 2021

Keynote speakers

Eckhard Elsen. Portrait.

Eckhard Elsen (European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN)

Abstract title:
The LHC – yesterday and tomorrow

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Short Biography:
Particle physicist, Eckhard Elsen held many committee positions, including chairing the LHC experiments committee from 2011-2014. After being awarded a diploma in particle physics at Hamburg University, Eckhard Elsen continued his studies and gained his doctorate in 1981. Elsen’s research, which focused on e+e- collider particle physics, led him to several prominent post-doctoral positions at Hamburg University, Stanford University National Accelerator Laboratory, and Heidelberg University, where he made first contact with CERN as a member of the OPAL collaboration. In 1990 Elsen was promoted to Senior Scientist for the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), a national research centre in Germany that operates particle accelerators. During this time he became the spokesperson for the H1 experiment (an international collaboration which developed and built the H1 detector at the ep-collider HERA at DESY), and later – after a sabbatical at the BaBar experiment at Stanford – project manager for the International Linear Collider (ILC) project team at DESY – when Elsen continued his relationship with CERN.
In 2006 Elsen was made a Professor at Hamburg University, where he taught both general physics courses and accelerator physics and supervises students. During this period, Elsen has also co-authored two books – the most recent on the physics harvest of the LHC Run 1, worked on over 450 publications in various fields and held many committee positions – including chairing the LHC experiments committee from 2011-2014.

The discovery of the Higgs particle, the last missing building block of the Standard Model of Particle Physics, in the early years of LHC operation provides a tool that will be used to seek for traces of New Physics at very high precision. The LHC experiments have conceived an ambitious and longterm upgrade programme that will provide them with the ability to look for the smallest deviation from the established model, e.g. in the decays of the Higgs particle. The overall strategy of Particle Physics has recently been updated.

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Paula Heron. Portrait.

Paula R. L. Heron (University of Washington)

Abstract title:
Enhancing physics learning outcomes: the dual roles of conceptualisation and reasoning

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Short Biography:
Paula R.L. Heron is a Professor of Physics at the University of Washington.  She holds a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. in physics from the University of Ottawa and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Western University.  She joined the Physics Department at the University of Washington in 1995.  Dr. Heron’s research focuses primarily on student ability to apply what they have learned about the dynamics of point particles in more advanced contexts involving elastic media, rigid bodies, etc.  She has given numerous invited talks on her research at national and international meetings and in university science departments.  Dr. Heron is co-Founder and co-Chair of the biannual “Foundations and Frontiers in Physics Education Research” conference series, the premier venue for physics education researchers in North America.  She has served on the Executive Committee of the Forum on Education of the American Physical Society (APS), the Executive Committee of the Topical Group on Physics Education Research of the APS, the Committee on Research in Physics Education of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and on the ad hoc National Research Council committee on the status and outlook for undergraduate physics education.  She co-chaired the Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs of the APS and AAPT, which produced the report Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st Century Careers.  She also serves as Associate Editor of Physical Review – PER.  She was elected Fellow of the APS In 2007 and in 2008 she shared the APS Education award with colleagues Peter Shaffer and Lillian McDermott.  Dr. Heron is a co-author on the upcoming 2nd Edition of Tutorials in Introductory Physics, a set of instructional materials that has been used in over 200 institutions in the US and that has been translated into German and Spanish.

Why do students make errors on physics problems? Errors that directly contradict what they have been taught? Errors that don’t arise from the failure to remember the correct formula? For the past several decades, physics education researchers have focused on one compelling explanation: students arrive in the classroom with pre-formed ideas about how the world works. Even though they may blend these ideas with those presented in formal instruction, the prior conceptions often win out. According to these accounts, students’ prior knowledge has been built through rational, if imperfect, processes of observation and analysis, and any new or different ideas presented in the classroom must likewise be built, not simply received. Figuring out what ideas students bring with them to the classroom, and how to take them into account, has proven to be a complex, multi-faceted program of research that has significantly influenced physics teaching. However, it is not always the case that students produce incorrect answers through logical inferences based on incorrect or inappropriate premises – often they don’t know why they chose a particular answer, just that it seems right. “Dual-process” theories suggest that their answers might not be based on so-called “slow” thinking, which is deliberate and laborious. Instead they might be based on so-called “fast” thinking, which is automatic and effortless. The basic idea is that students immediately and effortlessly form a first-impression of a physics problem. If this impression is found to be satisfactory, it will be adopted. Otherwise, a deliberate and analytical process ensues. It is believed that this sequence cannot be “turned off.” That is, a first impression will always be formed. If it is attractive, and the benefits of engaging in more effortful thinking are not obvious, then a student may answer incorrectly, masking their conceptual knowledge. In this talk, I will discuss recent efforts to improve both conceptual understanding and reasoning skills. Examples will be chosen from first-year university-level physics.

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Anne L’Huillier. Portrait.

Anne L’Huillier (Lund University)

Abstract title:
From extreme nonlinear optics to ultrafast atomic physics

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Short Biography:
Anne L’Huillier, born 1958 in Paris, defended her thesis in 1986 at the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique, in Saclay, France and was employed there as researcher until 1995. She moved to Lund University, Sweden and became full professor in 1997. Her research is centered around high-order harmonic generation in gases and its applications, in particular in attosecond science. Her current research deals with attosecond source development and optimization as well as with applications, e.g. the measurement of photoionization time delays in atomic systems. She has gotten several awards for her research, e.g. the 2011 L’Oréal-Unesco award for women in science and is member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences since 2004.

Since the beginning of the millennium, physicists know how to generate pulses of light of attosecond duration (1 as= 10-18 s), thus gaining access to this incredibly short time scale. A new physics is opening up, that of the “ultrafast” dynamics of electrons in matter. The duration of the attosecond pulses is of the same order of magnitude as, for example, the characteristic time of the photoelectric effect. This presentation will describe how attosecond pulses are generated when intense laser pulses interact with atomic gases, and their characteristics. We will then show on a few examples how these pulses can be used to investigate fast electron dynamics in atomic photoionization.

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Petra Rudolf. Portrait.

Markku Kulmala (University of Helsinki)

Abstract title:
The significance of continuous comprehensive observations and atmospheric new particle formation (NPF): From atmospheric clustering via feedback loops to global climate and air quality

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Short Biography:
Academician, prof. Markku Kulmala leads the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR), University of Helsinki. He is active in international initiatives to improve comprehensive continuous measurement networks all around the world, and to solve air quality – climate change interactions. Kulmala’s research consists of SMEAR (Stations for Measuring the Earth surface – Atmosphere Relationships) field stations and the GlobalSMEAR network. Kulmala has published over 1100 original research papers, 18 of which in Nature, 17 in Science and 7 in Physical Review Letters. According to the ISI Web of Knowledge, Kulmala has been 1st in the Citation Rankings in Geosciences (1.5.2011 – 30.4.2018). The total number of citations is over 61000 (from over 20000 different papers). His H-factor is 122. Prof. Kulmala is a Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is a member of 5 other Academies. He acts as a president of the European Center of the International Eurasian Academy of Sciences. He is a winner of many international awards (>10) and has nine honored doctoral degrees/ professorships.

The production of molecular clusters and their growth to larger sizes, is a world-wide phenomenon, with a significant contribution to aerosol particle number load and indirect radiative effects as well as urban air pollution. Understanding the very initial steps of atmospheric aerosol formation requires detailed knowledge of interlinked physics and chemistry in sub 3 nm size range. There is always more or less intensive clustering in the atmosphere but only some fraction of those clusters are able to grow to 3-4 nm and further to cloud condensation nuclei and haze particle sizes. Anyhow, NPF is a major aerosol source affecting significantly global aerosol and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) load as well as global climate and regional/local air quality. Using comprehensive, long-term observations it is possible to find out different processes, interactions and feedbacks in the atmosphere and atmosphere / Earth surface continuum. The effectiveness of the developed SMEAR concept was shown recently by investigating the effect of COVID-19 restrictions of human activities on atmospheric chemical cocktail, new particle formation and air quality in Eastern and Northern China.

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Michel Mayor. Portrait

Michel Mayor (University of Geneva, Nobel laureate 2019)

Abstract title:
Other Worlds in the Cosmos? The search for planets similar to our Earth and… perhaps sheltering Life!

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Short Biography:
Michel Mayor was born in Lausanne (Switzerland). Having obtained a master in physics at Lausanne University, he moved to astrophysics and get interested in the dynamics of spiral galaxies.
The PhD of Michel Mayor was devoted to the search of evidence of spiral structure in the Milky Way in the velocity distribution of stars close to the Sun. To test that possibility, at the end of his PhD he decided to develop a new specific spectrograph to measure stellar radial velocities.
This was the start of his interest in stellar kinematics. This research led to various fields of interest, among which the dynamics of globular clusters and the study of statistical characteristics of solar-type binary stars (Duquennoy, Mayor, 1991). He was naturally driven to study small mass companions to stars analogous to our Sun. By the end of the 1980’s the evolution of technology was such to allow for the development of a new spectrograph. This spectrograph, built at the Haute-Provence Observatory, reached a level of precision permitting to detect extra-solar planets.
Part of a large survey, with Didier Queloz, one of his graduate students, they have detected, in 1995, the planetary companion to the solar-type star 51 Pegasi: this was the first detection of an exoplanet. This discovery has resulted in the advent of an exciting new research field “exoplanets”. As a result of constant improvements to his high dispersion spectrographs Mayor’s work has significantly contributed to the discovery of “super-Earth” planets with mass greater than that of Earth.
In 2000, Michel Mayor took the lead for the construction of a new spectrograph: HARPS, optimized to search for very low mass planets. This spectrograph revealed the large occurrence of the subpopulation of super-Earths on tight orbits, challenging the scenarios of planetary formation. Apart from his research activity, Michel Mayor initiates a series of advanced level courses of Astrophysics since 1971, the “Saas-Fee courses”. He was a co-organizer for nine of these courses. From 1984 to 2007, he was teaching astrophysics at Geneva University for undergraduate courses at the department of physics as well as post-graduate ones at the department of astronomy. From 1998 to 2004, Michel Mayor was Director of the Geneva Observatory. He was also active in ESO (the European Southern Observatory), being the Chairman of the Scientific and Technological Committee of that organization (1990-92) and the Swiss delegate to the Council of ESO (2003-2007).
In the frame of the IAU (International Astronomical Union) Michel Mayor chaired the Commission on the “Structure and Dynamics of the Galactic System” (1988-1991), as well as the new Commission devoted to “Extra-solar planets” (2006-2009). Twenty years after the discovery of 51Peg b, Michel Mayor is still very active to detect and characterize exoplanets, devoting a large fraction of his time as a member of his group of research as well as inspiring other teams. For example, Michel Mayor was at the origin (with D. Latham) of the development of a northern copy of the overwhelming HARPS spectrograph to measure the mass of rocky planets detected by the Kepler space mission. A program focused on the physics of very low mass planets having allowed numerous scientific publications. He also gives a large tribute to outreach activities … a direct consequence of the exceptional interest of the public for that new domain of astronomy.
Since 2007, Michel Mayor is Emeritus Professor at Geneva University. He has been jointly awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics along with Professor James Peebles and Professor Michel Mayor.

Plurality of Worlds in the Universe, plurality of Inhabited Worlds? Twenty-six years ago we discovered the first planet to orbit a star very similar to our Sun. Since then, several thousand planetary systems have been detected. These discoveries have revealed to us an astonishing diversity of these systems.
A plethora of new instruments on the ground or aboard space missions opens up new perspectives for characterizing exoplanets. Combining various techniques, it is now possible to study their mass, size, chemical composition of these planets and their atmospheres, etc.

But research is already moving towards a more dizzying question: does life exist elsewhere in the Universe? Do we have the means to answer this multi-millennial question? Through technology, we are turning this dream of antiquity into a fascinating field of astrophysics today.

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William D. Phillips at the 2012 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on July 3, 2012.

Copyright: Photograph by Markus Pössel 

William D. Phillips (National Institute of Standards and Technology and University of Maryland, Nobel laureate 1997)

Abstract title:
A New Measure:  the Quantum Reform of the Metric System

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Short Biography:

William D. Phillips received a B.S. in physics from Juniata College in 1970, and his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976;  after two years as a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, he joined NIST (then the National Bureau of Standards) to work on precision electrical measurements and fundamental constants.  There, he initiated a new research program to cool atomic gases with laser light.  He founded NIST’s Laser Cooling and Trapping Group, and later was a founding member of the Joint Quantum Institute, a cooperative research organization of NIST and the University of Maryland that is devoted to the study of quantum coherent phenomena.  His research group has been responsible for developing some of the main techniques now used for laser-cooling and cold-atom experiments in laboratories around the world.  Their achievements include:  the first electromagnetic trapping of neutral atoms;  reaching unexpectedly low laser-cooling temperatures, within a millionth of a degree of Absolute Zero;  the confinement of atoms in optical lattices;  and coherent atom-optical manipulation of atomic-gas Bose-Einstein condensates.  Atomic fountain clocks, based on the work of this group, are now the primary standards for world timekeeping.  Among the group’s current research directions are the use of ultra-cold atoms for quantum information processing and quantum simulation of important physical problems.

Dr. Phillips is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He is a Fellow and Honorary Member of the Optical Society of America, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a corresponding member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences.  In 1997, Dr. Phillips shared the Nobel Prize in Physics “for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.”

The metric system, now called the “International System of Units”, began with the French revolution.  Today we are experiencing the greatest revolution in measurement since the French revolution.  The quantum nature of matter is being used to provide new definitions of the kilogram, ampere, kelvin, and mole.  These quantities are now defined by fixing values for the Planck constant; the quantum of electric charge;  Boltzmann’s constant;  and Avogadro’s number. This talk will explain how this is possible, why it was necessary, and speculate about future changes in the SI.

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William D. Phillips at the 2012 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on July 3, 2012.

Gina Rippon (Aston Brain Centre,
Aston University, Birmingham)

Abstract title:
Women, Brains and Science: a level playing field or a glass obstacle course?

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Short Biography:

​Professor Gina Rippon is Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging at the Aston Brain Centre, Aston University, Birmingham. Her research involves state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques to investigate developmental disorders such as dyslexia and autism. She also investigates the use of neuroscience techniques to explore social processes such as gender stereotyping and stereotype threat. She is an outspoken critic of ’neurotrash’, the populist (mis)use of neuroscience research to (mis)represent our understanding of the brain and, most particularly, to prop up outdated stereotypes. Her book on this topic ‘The Gendered Brain’, published by Bodley Head and Penguin Random House, came out in the UK in February 2019.

She recently served on the Fawcett Society’s Commission investigating gender stereotypes in the early years and has been a keynote speaker at preschool and primary education conferences, both in the UK and overseas, as well as the Department for Education. She speaks on the relevance of contemporary neuroscience to diversity and inclusivity initiatives and has given keynote addresses to business organisations and to government policy groups, including the UK’s Cabinet Office, All Party Parliamentary Group on Equity in STEM, the Government’s Gender Equality Unit and the EU Commission. A particular focus of her work is on the underrepresentation of women in science  and she has worked with the European Union ( to address this issue.


Women, Brains and Science: a level playing field or a glass obstacle course?

The so-called Gender Equality Paradox reports that the greatest under-representation of women in science can be found in the most gender equal countries. So, if the “playing field has been levelled” why aren’t women choosing to do science? A contemporary version of the old ‘blame the brain’ narrative is emerging, with, for example, reference to women’s innate predisposition towards working with ‘people’ rather than ‘things’. But scrutiny of science culture and its processes of recognition and reward, in the context of 21st century understanding of the ‘social brain’, identify an alternative, though still brain-based, explanation. This talk brings a contemporary neuroscience perspective to this ongoing debate. A gendered world produces a gendered brain – and science may well be the loser.

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Petra Rudolf. Portrait.

Copyright: Photograph by Sylvia Germes

Petra Rudolf (University of Groningen)

Abstract title:
Molecular Motors and Switches at Surfaces

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Petra Rudolf was born in Munich, Germany. She studied Physics at the La Sapienza, University of Rome, where she specialized in Solid State Physics. In 1987 she joined the National Surface Science laboratory TASC INFM in Trieste for the following five years, interrupted by two extended periods in 1989 and 1990/1991 at Bell Labs in the USA, where she started to work on the newly discovered fullerenes. In 1993 she moved to the University of Namur, Belgium where she received her PhD in 1995 and then quickly moved from postdoctoral researcher to lecturer and senior lecturer before taking up the Chair in Experimental Solid State Physics at the University in Groningen in 2003. Her principal research interests lie in the areas of condensed matter physics and surface science, particularly molecular motors, 2D solids, organic thin films and inorganic-organic hybrids. She has published >240 peer-reviewed articles and 32 book chapters.
Dr. Rudolf is the President of the European Physical Society; she was the President of the Belgian Physical Society in 2000/2001 and was elected member of the German Academy of Science and Engineering, honorary member of the Italian Physical Society, Fellow of the Institute of Physics, Lid van verdienst of the Dutch Physical Society and Fellow of the American Physical Society. For her work on molecular motors she received the 2007 Descartes Prize of the European Commission. In 2013 she was appointed officer of the Order of Orange Nassau by H.M. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Molecular motors and switches form the basis of many important biological processes. In contrast to these solutions chosen by Nature for achieving complex tasks, mankind’s present day technologies function exclusively through their static or equilibrium properties. On can therefore easily anticipate that the controlled movement of molecules or parts of molecules offers unprecedented technological possibilities for the future. In this presentation I shall show how to build molecular engines that allow movements at the molecular level to be coupled to the macroscopic world, e.g. to transport macroscopic objects like drops of liquid over a surface. I shall also discuss self-assembled monolayers of switches that can be addressed with light and charge transfer and demonstrate how such systems can be employed for “read and write” functions.

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Invited speakers

Confirmed speakers for the parallell sessions:

Gabriella Andersson, Uppsala University, Sweden
Jakob Bengtsson, Lund University, Sweden
Ulf Danielsson, Uppsala University, Sweden
Liam Gaffney, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
Vidar Gudmundsson, University of Iceland, Iceland
Dag Hanstorp, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Henning Kirschenmann, Helsinki Instititute of Physics, Finland
Suchita Kulkarni, University of Graz, Austria
Markus Metsälä, University of Helsinki, Finland
Gunnar Ohlen, The Swedish Physical Society, Sweden
Beran Premysl, EuropeanSpallation Source EIRIC, Sweden
Arri Priimägi, Tampere University, Finland
Rene Reifarth, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Caroline Robin, Universität Bielefeld and GSI Darmstadt, Germany
Timur Shegai, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
Irina Sorokina, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
Henrik Stapelfeldt, Aarhus University, Denmark
Susanne Tegler, The Swedish Physical Society, Sweden
Anders Wallin, VTT MIKES Metrology, Finland
Peter Winter, Argonne National Laboratory, USA


Alfred Nobel

Wenner-Gren Stiftelserna
Wenner-Gren Foundations

Thorlabs Sweden AB

Romo Scientific

Nobel Committee for Physics​


Academic Conferences
Box 7059
750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Phone: + 46 (0) 18 67 10 03

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Important dates

December 2020: Abstract submission opens
7 May 2021: Registration opens
21 May 2021: Deadline for abstract submission

4-6 August 2021: Nordic Physics Days 2021